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I went to see a movie, and instead I saw the future (signalvnoise.com)
185 points by heshiebee 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments





From the OP: "This is the future, I’m afraid. A future that plans on everything going right so no one has to think about what happens when things go wrong. Because computers don’t make mistakes. An automated future where no one actually knows how things work. A future where people are so far removed from the process that they stand around powerless, unable to take the reigns. A future where people don’t remember how to help one another in person. A future where corporations are so obsessed with efficiency, that it doesn’t make sense to staff a theater with technical help because things only go wrong sometimes. A future with a friendlier past."

This reads eerily like the world depicted by the classic film, "Brazil," by Terry Gillian -- a world run by impersonal machines and processes beyond the control of most human beings. The plot starts with a fly getting jammed in a printer, creating a typographical error, which results in the incarceration and accidental death during interrogation of an innocent man; and that's just the beginning. People in this world are powerless, unable to take the reigns, unable to help other human beings. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_(1985_film)

Let's hope humanity finds a way to build a different kind of future.


This has kind of been true in some sections of society for a while now, hasn't it? In the places where corporations have gutted and displaced the humanity that you used to be able to find. I've certainly seen and experienced the lack of humanity (a lack of empathy is probably the way that I'd describe it) explained away as, "Well, that's store policy, sir." for decades. I don't see that going anywhere in the future. I agree with the OP that we can just expect to deal with more and more of this in our lives.

As an anecdote, just this past week, at our local Target, my wife dealt with a similar situation around getting an exceedingly minor situation resolved. As part of a larger online order, we needed to get some lotion for our (< 1 years old) twins. We received the right brand and type of lotion but not the child version of the product that we ordered. My wife realized the error at the car, before driving home, thankfully, and so she went back inside to get it resolved. "I can't do that. The system requires 24 hours to pass from such and such arbitrary moment in your transaction." or whatever. My wife had to stand her ground, arguing with the employee about the issue, about how she needs it _today_, because one of our girls has eczema, it's being exacerbated by the dry winter weather, and we ran out of the same lotion this morning. That she doesn't have time to run through the store to find it, wait in line to buy it, and then for one of us to have to come back tomorrow still to process a return for an incorrect item through no fault of our own.

She did get it resolved, but it took corralling a small set of managers and then the store manager to do an override of some sort. Over 20 minutes of my wife's time on a work day, after work hours, and when we have these very young twins at home. We were trying to save time and instead it cost us. Because of "the system.", etc...


Or [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVyRkl5qNb8 (0m59s from [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiocracy , identity tattoing automaton scene)

I think this view could be abstracted as "tech is helping automate customer service into oblivion."

I had a very similar experience this past week:

I wanted a new dryer for the apartment. The goal was to have the installation process be as hands-off as possible, so I googled, ordered online from Home Depot, and signed up for their "free installation" service. Click click click done.

Every part of the process stunk. The delivery company rescheduled (they didn't care - no connection to Home Depot itself), the guys who showed up came up with some excuse as to why they couldn't actually do the installation, and not only did they not care when I told them to cancel the delivery, they seemed happy that they didn't have to do the work ("no problem! we're outta here!").

Home Depot customer service didn't care when I asked for a refund. Nobody cared they lost a sale over something trivial and solvable. Nobody wanted to solve the issue (it would be more work to do that), nobody had a stake in the game, everyone got paid regardless. No humanity, just automatons dutifully processing the commands given to them.

In the end? Ordered from the local appliance shop that's been in business for 100+ years. Single phone call. They cared. Perfect process, no Internet (or, frankly, any tech other than an email confirmation) required.


That doesn't describe my experience with Home Depot at all. After I complained about their contacted installer, the manager of the store called to apologize and they had a new installer stop by at my convenience to redo the installation for free.

Appliance delivery and installation companies absolutely depend on their connections to big box stores to stay alive.


It would be much easier for people to disregard the customer and not complete sales in a big company like that though. It's not only more likely, it ONLY happens with them. A small business would never have a company that delivers be that disappointing and lazy, especially after complaints to their customer service. Or even lack any sort of concern they lost a sale... Disappointing!

My opinion is exactly the reverse. This is not the future. This is a story about a company whose time is highly limited.

I have a company - not a start-up, just a regular ol business- - that will do just under 7 figures of revenue in this, our very first year. 100% bootstrapped from savings.

In an industry which normally requires a high level of trust (think $4000+ upfront spend), we've signed up dozens of customers with ZERO reviews or prior reputation.

How?

We treat other people like humans - we talk to them like they're adults, treat them like they're adults, and have created a very special product that meets their needs as human beings.

Everything is designed from the ground up to be HUMAN FIRST, systems, policies and software be damned.

As long as human beings are the ones spending the money, companies like mine will own the future.


I'm inclined to agree, I think (if I understand your point). this has less to do with "the future" or "computers" and more to do with a very low margin business (probably a large chain) that faces little incentive to go the extra mile.

it's like shopping for groceries at walmart vs the local grocery store. if I go to walmart, I can basically get the lowest prices on most items. but if I can't find something, it might take me five minutes to find a disinterested employee who may or may not know where to find the thing I want to buy. or I can go to the independent grocery store where someone will ask me if I need help if I so much as walk down the same aisle twice. of course, the exact same items will all be shifted up by a dollar or two.

in markets where customers are willing to pay more for good service, you typically see businesses at a bunch of different price points offering different levels of service. for the most part, movie theaters aren't this kind of market, except perhaps in very affluent areas. people already consider movie tickets to be expensive these days. as long as the experience goes right enough of the time, they're not gonna pay extra to see the same movie.


There is a theater in my area that prides itself on service, to the point that all screenings are ad free.

It's a bit far away of a drive, but saving 30 minutes of ads is kinda worth a few bucks.


Or show up about 20 minutes later than the stated movie time. Most theaters in my area has assigned seating so planning for skipping trailers isn’t too bad.

Companies like yours get acquired and inevitably are corrupted in the process.

Only if they value hypergrowth at cost of the customer.

Some companies are happy being small and personal. Maybe they won't become a billion dollar unicorn, but maybe they'll treat their customers better and be more in touch with the community instead.

Personal touch doesn't scale well. But that's why there will always be a niche for small and personal companies


Companies like GP's get acquired only if GP sells their share. If GP refuses, competition only has the alternative of either lowering their prices so far down and cross-financing this with more profitable other stuff that OP goes out of business or to provide actual human support.

In both cases the consumers win.


What did you expect?

This isn't the future - this is how it's been for decade(s) and it's just you only notice it when it "goes wrong" (for whatever reason)

When your cinema ran film, there needed to be somebody who could "deal with film"... I believe there used to be a profession called "A Projectionist"

Pretty much from the moment films were digitally distributed, the multiplex became a giant automated jukebox - only staff there are to sell you food and to clean up the mess you left from your food.

First time I hit this (easily over a decade ago) was when somebody had left the polarizing filter on the projector lens and we were trying to watch a 2D film. Eventually we got somebody to "take the filter off" and we could actually see the film properly - but then restarting the film descended into a cluster-fuck of trying to convince the DRM system that they weren't trying to show a bootleg showing and how even if they did restart, it was going to through the centrally-planned multiplex schedule into chaos.


This has been true since platter systems took over in the 80s and 90s.

Back in that era, I saw so many movies that had completely broken projection and the staff had no idea what to do. Like now, it was so automated that all they knew was how to click the button to start the movie. Today's cinema systems are so much more reliable in comparison.

So maybe it's best to just acknowledge that there's a lost art here: film projection. The best looking 35mm film projection I ever saw in a regular theater was "The Man Who Wasn't There" at the Catlow. That theater had a projectionist who had worked there since WWII[1].

But, thanks to technology like digital projectors with autofocus, almost every movie I see today has better projection than that standout experience. It looks beautiful even weeks after release, since there's no physical film that gets scratched, starts to weave, etc.

[1] - https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2003-08-31-030831...


That was the way I was taught to think about print vs digital in the bio box --- print degrades gracefully, slowly, while digital fails catastrophically, abruptly.

I'm sure this is true of a wider scope of things than just cinema projection.


At first this article seemed like some sort of new "interactive movie" thing, but I was mildly disappointed in the end to read that it was actually just about a technical problem at the movie theater. (don't get me wrong, it's a good article)

>"This is the future, I’m afraid. A future that plans on everything going right so no one has to think about what happens when things go wrong. Because computers don’t make mistakes . . . A future where corporations are so obsessed with efficiency, that it doesn’t make sense to staff a theater with technical help because things only go wrong sometimes. A future with a friendlier past."

It doesn't make sense for a theater to have a high-paid techie on staff to handle the small percentage of the time some major technical glitch happens. Instead of the theater hiring technical staff, they can now put that money towards a better overall movie-going experience (those times when glitches don't happen anyways).

I guess I just don't agree with the author of the article that this is a bad thing.


I don't think I've been to any movie theater in the past 5 years that is any different from a theater that I could go 20 years ago.

To me this shows that the money is not going to a "better overall movie-going experience", but rather just that movie theaters are getting squeezed by the studios, rising video-on-demand, etc, and not all theaters are responding to it: they will milk whatever they can then from their properties until they simply won't be profitable/justifiable anymore and go bankrupt.


I only go to the theaters rarely (2-3 times a year) but the last one I went to was pretty nice. Online booking so you can choose your seat beforehand and not worry about lining up early to snag a good spot, reclining chairs, low seat density. If I go see another movie at a theater, a reclining chair is a must. This was a newer theater though (opened in the last 5-6 years or so).

Perhaps owners of older theaters that just make good money with how they are now won't bother with upgrades as long as profits are good, but they'll be left behind when newer theaters or older theaters that spend money enhancing the customer experience start getting more audiences.


> I guess I just don't agree with the author of the article that this is a bad thing.

My impression was that the author wasn't saying it's a bad thing to have occasional technical issues. The author criticized how, when a technical issue inevitably came up, the theater staff didn't explain what's going on. After some time the staff restarted the movie, indicating they knew there was a problem, but didn't bother to tell the audience anything.

The author did also mention not having technical staff on site, but I think the primary problem was communication.


>I guess I just don't agree with the author of the article that this is a bad thing.

It really isn't. If the theater company loses enough business, it won't exist any more. And TBH there isn't much they can really do against streaming services delivered for cheap in amazing quality. We're less willing to pay the time cost of going out and dealing with a bad theater, traffic, disruptive people in the theater, etc.

But I think the author is more worried about a general lax approach to handling things when technology goes wrong. It's fine for a movie theater to have IT problems, but less so a hospital or government service. And personally I'm not at all sure some hospitals or governments are above movie theaters in technical prowess.


> It doesn't make sense for a theater to have a high-paid techie on staff to handle the small percentage of the time some major technical glitch happens.

Except in cases where there is no fallback for when failures do happen, which was the case in the article. Then having knowledgeable staff makes a lot of sense.

> Instead of the theater hiring technical staff, they can now put that money towards a better overall movie-going experience

Is there any evidence of this happening? Customers' time was wasted and the theater lost money on that showing due to all the refunds that had to be issued.


Well, yes, of course having a tech on is worth it if the tech has something to do. That's how jobs work. The problem for the cinema is whether or not the tech has something to do often enough that his salary is less than the refunds they have to make if he doesn't exist. Your parent post is suggesting that the cinema has done the math and said "fuck it, that doesn't happen often enough that we care".

You can't determine whether the cinema lost money on the film: You know that some people received refunds, which means the movie made less money than it could have, but you have no data on whether or not half the patrons kept watching and still paid. (And even then no data on whether or not that covers costs. Maybe they all bought huge buckets of popcorn, a higher margin product, that they didn't refund.)

We also don't have an estimate on how frequently this goes wrong, although we can guess that the frequency is low enough that the chain doesn't see the need to keep techs on -- and, in fact, the previous technical role of the projectionist been largely eliminated.


I'm guessing it's worth just not paying an on-site technician and giving refunds whenever a problem happens.

back of the envelope calculation. say you have a multiplex with five theaters, and each theater (200 seats, 50% full on average) cycles a movie every three hours. you're open from noon to midnight. a ticket costs $10 and a cinema tech costs $20/hr, so $240 a day just for one. your average seating brings 200 * 0.5 * $10 = $1000 of revenue from ticket sales (I'm assuming you don't refund popcorn). from a first-order analysis, it doesn't make sense to hire the on-premises tech unless the movie equipment malfunctions in at least one showing every four days (or once per 80 showings). to me, that sounds like a pretty high failure rate, but I don't actually know anything about cinema equipment. I'd guess that if your stuff malfunctioned that often, people would get pretty mad even if the tech intervened.

obviously I neglected a few things here. maybe that one theater will continue to malfunction throughout the rest of the day, forgoing more revenue. maybe even if the tech intervenes after five minutes, people ask for a refund anyway. maybe your reputation gets so bad that you have to start giving concessions vouchers along with the refund to get people to come back.


> Instead of the theater hiring technical staff, they can now put that money towards a better overall movie-going experience (those times when glitches don't happen anyways).

Apparently they're not saving enough money, because a movie with a listed 8:00 showtime won't actually start rolling until 8:20 with all the ads they cram in there at the start. Sure hasn't made my movie-going experience any better.


My local theater is refreshingly honest about this (probably some annoyed employee letting off some steam) - under the screen displaying the showtimes, a poster has been put up stating 'Given times are start of commercials. Feature starts twelve minutes after posted time.'

>I guess I just don't agree with the author of the article that this is a bad thing.

The people working there can't fix the issue so for next days/weeks this bugs can repeat. What kind of complex tech is there you can't train someone to fast forward a movie? It could be some DRM protected computer that plays the movie and you need special keys to do anything more then plug it out and back in.


> The people working there can't fix the issue so for next days/weeks this bugs can repeat.

They probably have a technician on call which can answer before the next day, but not instantly during an issue.

The most likely issue is a part that broke, you really expect movie theaters to stock parts for everything and always having someone able to replace them? Your ideal movie theater would bankrupt quite fast. Instead the chain may have a stock for many theaters (or a contract to get replacement quick) and a technician able to go from one to another quickly (or again, a contract for this).

> What kind of complex tech is there you can't train someone to fast forward a movie?

It's not clear from the article whether he did wait enough or just abandonned once they got the movie back on.

I frequently go see movies, so I have seen many technical issues and they always were able to fast foward. No technical issues are alike and them figuring it out is clearly always a struggle, so it's rarely quick to fix.


>The most likely issue is a part that broke, you really expect movie theaters to stock parts for everything and always having someone able to replace them?

>I frequently go see movies, so I have seen many technical issues

That sucks that this happens frequently.


> That sucks that this happens frequently.

Never said it happens frequently, I see in average 50 movies a year and I have been doing this for the past 6 years. It's just the good old Murphy's law. There's so much software engineer here, it's weird that it's not a concept that we are aware of.

In my whole life I probably got 5 issues in a movie, they weren't able to fix it only once, and the manager told me there was a burnt smell in the projection room, so I guess it was the good old magic smoke that escaped.


It sounded like the reboot worked but people didn't want to sit through the first half hour again.

Yes. so the future is that evrthung will be automated and all employees will at best know how to unplug and plug back the systems. If the computer would say you don't exist or you can't do X there will be nobody to help you, like in the article it was earlier on first page, if your name is Dick then bad luck for you. there is no human you can contact that has the power to help you buy or do whatever you need.

It is a terrible thing going to the movie theater and not even being able to watch the movie you paid for. That's the ONE THING you need to get right, if you run a movie theater. Also, in a lot of situations where tech goes wrong, even normally intelligent non-technicians can solve issues given the proper resources. Sometimes a troubleshooting checklist is all you need.

Is it so terrible to once in a while have an inconvenience like this, compared to other actual problems that society has nowadays?

It's nuts how similar this story is to the numerous HN comments I've read about people running into trouble with their Google accounts.

Someone replied on one of those threads that with (made up number) 2 billion users, of which 0.5 billion probably lack basic computer literacy x $15 per hour x 1 ticket per year... Etc etc ....it works out to be like 50% of Google's profit or something. And they end up employing 20,000 FTEs in call center.

Or you know....they don't.

Not really sure what the right answer is here but I don't feel it's my right to tell google to spend $X billion a year in service.

Maybe a competitor comes up with service, and google gets beat.


Support could be paid. If it ends up being Google's fault the fee is refunded, otherwise the fee is kept. This will deal and scale no matter how many idiots are calling as they're the ones paying the people answering the calls.

Charging for support, even if it's contingent as you described, would definitely be more of a drag on brand than having no support.

Worldwide first-line of technical support at $15/h seems an order of magnitude off.

Yeah that definitely seems off. I worked at a tech company where approximately half our employees were customer support, and each was paid closer to $30/hour. I don't see how we could have ever paid $15/hour/head for our support team.

For free accounts, sure. But paying Google cloud customers get treated the same and have to make a ruckus on HN just to get Google engineers to notice them. There's really no excuse.

I guess in both cases the alternative would be to pay (more) money for the service, which is something the majority of people doesn’t want. The system is optimized for the 99.9% cases where stuff like that just doesn’t happen

The results may be the same, but the situation that causes them is different in one crucial way:

The theater in question simply employed no one who had the capability to fix the problem (or at least, no one who was on site at that time).

Google employs many thousands of people, plenty of whom have the capability to fix problems that come up with accounts—they just choose to make them completely unavailable to users who have problems with their accounts.


Google does tend to be at the leading edge of stuff, both good and bad. This one, as a 'nobody user' sucks.

I've been around tech long enough to witness the rise of Google (and soon to fall). Regarding your reference to tech customer service...the G is practically the originator of absent human customer support.

Most of us in tech have not only seen this future, we have coded and design it. Systems with little or no human interaction so when things go terribly wrong, there is no course of action that people can take to solve their problems. It's probably going to get worse with mediocre AI working on huge data sets, "don't blame our product issues on us, it was the AI that caused it... and we have no idea what the hell is was thinking.".

"A future that plans on everything going right so no one has to think about what happens when things go wrong. Because computers don’t make mistakes. An automated future where no one actually knows how things work."

Sounds like a good plot line for a movie...


This is already a big theme in Brazil. When you have an air conditioning malfunction, there's no one to fix it. An underground system of guerilla technicians develops, outside the bounds of the law, because they're not supposed to exist.

When I read the first sentence, I thought of the country. For those not familiar with the Terry Gilliam science fiction film from the, it’s worth clarifying that Brazil is the name of a film: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_(1985_film)

It's also my favorite episode of The Outer Limits reboot...

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0667957/


Digital and analog movies fail in different ways, but when a movie exhibited on film fails, normally there's not much the theater staff can do about it in time to keep on schedule anyway. I really don't see what most of this story has to do with "the future" -- going to the movies 15 years ago on a gift certificate when there's a projector problem probably has about the same outcome.

The biggest issue that the author seems to have had was the lack of trust in humans and the lack of information at that cinema.

The staff had no one who had any knowledge about the technology, the cashiers had no power (=they were not trusted to not abuse) to issue refunds, and no one including the manager had any idea of telling the people what's going on.

It's similar to public transport issues: passengers are way more likely to not be frustrated when you tell them "so, someone threw themselves in front of a train, we're sorry but there won't be any service for hours, please take these cab vouchers", compared to leaving them in the station with "train delayed by 10min", followed by "delayed by 20min", "delayed by 60min" and so on. If I know there won't be a train for 2 hours, I can hail a cab and get out of the mess vs losing time in waiting for a train that's not gonna come and be frustrated as hell.


If you're going all in on automation, at least try and do it well. In this case I don't see any technical reason why you couldn't have automated monitoring of the screenings, automated raising of alerts if there are issues, remote debugging from some central service desk, centrally controlled announcements to keep customers informed, etc.

And if you're not going the automation route, make personal service a differentiator. In the UK we have the Everyman Cinemas doing this for example, offering sofas with tables, a table service for food and drink, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, etc.


> I don't see any technical reason why you couldn't have automated monitoring of the screenings

Well, I suppose the first question is whether or not your automated monitor contains a Mysterious Hum Detector, and whether or not the case of a Mysterious Hum happens frequently enough to be worth rolling out the Mysterious Hum Detector to every screen in every one of your cinemas.

Also: The Audio Has Accidentally Been Set To French detector, and the Dammit Something Has Fallen In Front Of The Projector detector are equally hard to implement.

Automating uncommon real-world events is significantly harder than you might think.


I bet you could make a Mysterious Hum detector that worked by having a camera and microphone installed in the theater that compared what it was seeing and hearing to what it was supposed to be seeing and hearing.

But I agree with you that it would be relatively pointless - any resolution to a problem like that probably needs physical intervention to resolve.

And anyways that theater was full of mysterious Hum detectors. The article was written by one!


You're right: They could implement some kind of autonomous general intelligence to assist in resolving issues.

Probably take about 9 months to build an MVP, but about 16 years worth of training data until it's able to handle most cases.


Will consumers reward businesses that correct for this?

Alamo Drafthouse has always seemed humanity-first to me from movie programming, to community-based events, to viewing experience. Their patrons seem to appreciate it.


The best part of the Alamo Drafthouse is that they don't show ads before movies (besides trailers). Instead they do a fun, in-house series of videos specific to the movie.

Ads at other theaters have gotten so bad that I'm willing to drive out my way to go to Alamo instead. The last movie I saw at AMC didn't actually start until 30 minutes after its scheduled time because of ads. (Less than half of that was for trailers.)


I go there as well. It occurred to me that they would definitely have noticed something going wrong since their staff is in and out of the theatre at all times.

I’ve even seen them stop and rewind a movie because they had to remove a guest.


Reminds me of yesterday trying to collect a hire car in central Stockholm from a Hertz "intelligent locker":

1. Texted PIN to get into garage didn't work. After 5 minutes just tailed someone else through the door.

2. Locker rejected non-Euro drivers license. Call to contact centre overcame it.

3. "Prefilled" customer details were all wrong and didn't match confirmation email. So 10 minutes to retype them.

4. Exit boom gate wouldn't open. Garage said to call hire company. Hire company said they cannot open it. 3-way call resulted in garage employee begrudgingly pressing a button to remotely open it.

Not to single out Hertz, last week we returned an Avis car to the reservation specified location at the correct time (10 pm), but a sign there stated the key drop was "permanently closed" and to deliver it 5 km away. We had an overnight train to catch so were forced to urgently do so and incur the return taxi fare.

I'm unsure how far society can keep shoving incompetent automation down peoples' throats. I understand that people generally want to save money, but I think many want high-impact experiences (like 3 kids + 2 adults + transport mode changes) to go smoothly enough they will happily a little pay more to derisk it.


My Dad was extremely good at talking to people. Too good sometimes, when it called for a short interaction it would become a longer one (still usually benefited him).

He had a saying I never liked about low wage workers who didn't understand what they were doing or have any power outside of their task:

"A system designed by geniuses, to be run by idiots"

... Might be a little harsh, but I think he was on to something. The workers in this article had no power to correct anything, they had no responsibly or opportunity to learn, the turnover is probably very high and coincides with semester starts/ends. They're allowed to be worthless when something goes wrong, maybe the author is right and some are even encouraged to be.

How many people have seen code that is written for "things only go wrong sometimes"? Yep, but when they do!


Another one:

"Design a [programming] language that even idiots can use it and only idiots will use it".


Twenty-First Century corporations either don't offer any public access at all a la FAANG, or build a wall of useless people to interact with the public, to mask the reality that they are just like FAANG.

Don't include Amazon - they have empowered customer support who solve your problems. Which is why they have loyalty despite devolving into an eBay-like dropshipper marketplace.

Apple, Google, Facebook - yes, don't expect help if you do business with them and don't have a million Twitter followers to make a stink...


The problem was that there existed humans to complain to. Imagine if there were no people at all. No ushers to track down. No staff. The box office an automated kiosk. Nobody to actually complain to. The only option available to submit a ticket online, where it could be properly triaged and a technical fix dispatched according to optimal scheduling. The author would have requested a refund from Fandango, and may or may not have received it, but we would have saved the time of at least five people who otherwise would have worked at a movie theatre.

Saved it for what, though? If they didn't have jobs, they wouldn't have incomes (yes, yes, UBI, good luck with that).

I’ll take the small chance of this any day of the week so I can get $15 movie tickets. I know I will because I go to the Metreon AMC and the Century Westfield way more than I go to Alamo Drafthouse.

I have recently started using Office 365 at work, and it seems like a similar setup. Our in-house tech support are fine when stuff works, but if something’s wrong they have no idea. No word from Microsoft. Maybe if there’s a major outage, they’ll know something. A file disappears from OneDrive, there’s no help.

Overall, it’s a net positive, I think. But I feel bad for the humans in these non-jobs. Once roombas can clean movie theaters and show people how to set up Word on their phone, then it’s game over.


The very definition of an anecdote.

The cinema in my town in Ede, the Netherlands is fantastic.

Hmm, who would have thought it that 2 businesses could operate... differently?

This has nothing to do with computers or the future...


Excuse me, how can people be so concerned about this while we have a major climate crisis going on that affects 7 billion people? It blows my mind.

Because life has to be worth living to want to fix it.

Reminds me of Foundation

Good call. There's a point where the sheer number of different systems, largely created by automation, make it difficult to troubleshoot and fix devices.

This puts an interesting angle on the "right to repair" issue. No-one has a clue how to actually repair stuff - just replace it, and dump the broken crap into landfill.


I wonder how different this story would be if the “manager” wasn’t ensconced in the office? The mechanism works something like this:

* The “manager”, mostly not giving a shit.

* Employees, under no meaningful oversight, goof-off.

* Problem occurs, nobody notices. Customers can’t find staff...

It’s all downhill, from the top-down.


The problem is that the manager has no incentive to actually care. The job is boring, low-paid, you have very limited power to do anything, and profits to the theatre don't actually reflect on their paycheck. Given these conditions, from their perspective it makes total sense to put in as little amount of work as possible.

This story would be much different at a small family-owned business (or as some call "lifestyle business"); chances are the problem wouldn't happen to begin with, but if it did the manager would care much more because their wallet's contents are directly proportional to customer satisfaction.


The "manager" is just an hourly-rate employee with a slightly different set of permissions and duties. They have no greater investment in the outcome than anyone else on the staff.

But the same thing almost certainly applies to everyone at the remote "headquarters": why should they care either? They have no incentive to care: they're paid to show up and be there for their shift.

It's just a stage of the process that's been ongoing for decades. Companies treat staff as resources, and finally (at least 40 years later), staff at all levels are behaving the way they're treated.


This isn't tomorrow. This is today. This is what I live daily when talking to others as a DevOps engineer. Everyone thinks everything just works, and doesn't under why you still need SSH access to things for debugging.

No, your one bad experience probably doesn't mean that everyone's experience will always be bad forever now.

I'm sure people have occasionally had bad experiences at the movies for as long as there have been movies.


this has some elements of cultural difference. in America, we want to be coddled with empty sorries and emphatic statements. the reality is seeing a movie is a transaction, and in many other countries, they don't get as excited about seriously apologising over and over.

how much extra money per ticket would you pay for those sorries in exceptional circumstances? when i was growing up, i went to a 'mom and pop' theater. people knew each other, you got to know the owner and talk to him about what he was booking.

he was priced out. most people prefer saving a few bucks per ticket, and will give up sorries to get it. that's capitalism for you, giving people what they actually want, not what they ask for it think they want. capitalism follows the money.


I've never had an experience remotely like this. It makes me wonder where the author is from that their standards of customer service are so low.

> I went to see a movie, and instead I saw the future

When I read this title I was sure the author had gone to see Idiocracy.


This is not specially the future. This is the low cost. When you pay a minimal price for a service, you have a minimal service.

Movie theaters are run by teenagers and young adults. It is no surprise that they cannot handle hiccups.

> This is the future, I’m afraid. A future that plans on everything going right so no one has to think about what happens when things go wrong.

Many organizations have one of two perspectives on customer service:

A) It's an opportunity to ensure customer happiness and repeat customers.

B) It's a cost to be externalized to the customer as much as possible.

The organizations in group A are often like the local appliance shop nih mentions in another comment: small, with an interest in repeat business, and relying on word-of-mouth as the primary customer acquisition channel. They may be in a competitive marketplace nominally (i.e., there are big chains around) and so they know they can't compete on price, so they compete on convenience, attitude, help-when-things-go-wrong, advice, etc. Customers are often not so price-sensitive that they'll always go with the cheapest option. This used to be many businesses, but technology grants advantages to those in group B --

The organizations in group B compete on price, or exist in a local environment in which they don't really to compete for customers. Movie theaters, insurance companies, FAANGs, etc. -- they know that most customers are not really there by choice (at least anymore, perhaps they used to be) -- they're there because that's where their friends (F), the best stuff (A, A), their favorite movies (N), or the quickest results (G) are. They're there because their employer has a contract (insurance companies), they're there because it's the only theater in town, they're there because it's the strictly cheapest flight from SFO to YYZ.

For group B organizations, a dollar spent on customer service is a dollar lost; when things go wrong, it's up to the customer to resolve it, and the customer incurs basically the entire cost of this "fixing" it, even if the organization nominally issues a refund. The OP here was not reimbursed for any of the costs incurred by the theater's screw-up. When insurers deny claims spuriously and force their customers to do the leg work to show they're in the right, and the insurer doesn't reimburse the customer for the cost of time, energy, missed work, etc -- and would almost certainly laugh at an invoice for work the insurer should have done, but didn't.

After all, what's the customer going to do about it? They probably can't or don't want to switch to another vendor. If there even is an industry regulator, it's almost certainly not going to be worth it for an individual customer to even file a grievance.

> no one has to think about what happens when things go wrong

I think it's less that "no one has to think about what happens" when things go wrong, it's that the cost of things going wrong has simply been passed along to the customer.

One way to think about the extra cost of customer service for a company is as a mandated "insurance" plan for the customer when something goes wrong. The cost is spread across all customers, but the benefit only accrues to those who have something go wrong, or who want smiles -- except of course it also accrues to the customers who value the knowledge that if something goes wrong, there's an insurance policy for it.

Few people pay for insurance when they don't have to, so perhaps it's no surprise we see a trend towards group B.


typo: reins not reigns

So the author had a poor customer service experience, and blames it on "the future".

This is the sort of rant I expect from my grandpa, not the blog of a tech company.


The future point the author makes is that all skill has been taken out of most jobs, and almost all power to boot. In the future, no one will be able to handle exceptions not caught by the software.

Right. Systems are only getting more complex. What happens when a wildly complex AI decides that you should not be sold a ticket to this movie or train, and there are no attendants around because why would there be? They haven't been needed for years, "the system does not make mistakes". What if it's an AI that has lethal measures to protect an area (etc etc)?

This is already a thing in China and their social credit system. Lose enough points and you can be prevented from buying a train ticket or booking a flight [0]. You can probably imagine that rectifying errors in this system is... troublesome.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/01/china-bans-23m...


When all of you damn people eventually move to a small town, please drive slow, turn down your damn car audio system. And finally, don't make life about money. The race doesn't need to exist. Cook at home, and don't beg New Seasons, Natural Grocers or Whole Foods to move to your new home.

Everything that happened at that movie theatre and almost everything around you in life is due to population scale.


I can relate and would completely agree with you if I haven't lived in Europe. But it is not just a matter of population scale, it is also a matter of urban design and the scale of the communities.

Take Berlin for example, a city of ~4 million people, and you can still find on every neighborhood smaller businesses, shops, bars and cafés where the owner actually knows most of the patrons for years, etc. You can find the big-box movie theater, but these are the absolute exceptions.

In a way, in the resulting story from OP the consumers are to blame just as much as the managers/business people: people want maximum convenience, minimum price and minimum person-to-person interaction? It should be no surprise that this is what they are getting.


This is what being completely out of touch and rich looks like when you didn't grow up rich.

Now imagine what thoughts go through the heads of second and third generation rich kids.

Now imagine that politicians are mostly those rich kids.

That's the present, and the future. Jason, you're part of the problem you're complaining about and you don't even know it. So it goes.


>Jason, you're part of the problem you're complaining about and you don't even know it. So it goes.

I'm sorry, I don't understand. Do you think you can clarify this a little bit for me?




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